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Patio and Porch Refresh

Time to give our porches and patios a little TLC. Here are some simple finds from Amazon and ideas for refreshing those outdoor spaces just in time for the end of summer cookouts and the coziness of fall.

Start with a clean slate. Getting everything out of the area will allow for easier deep cleaning. Seeing the space cleared out may even inspire new ways to arrange and decorate. Properly cleaning and prepping the area will ensure the hard work of painting and decorating will last for several seasons. We recommend: a pressure washer with a circular attachment “surface cleaner” because it can cut cleaning time by 50-75%! Additionally, proper pressure washing can revive dingy wood, hearty plastics, and pvc type furniture too. Just be sure to use the right pressure for the material and paint or seal after.

If it’s dingy, consider painting it. Keep in mind: paints are not all-purpose. Paints are formulated to adhere to particular materials and to be used in specific environments. Check the labels to ensure you purchase a quality paint (with great reviews) created for your exact surfaces and environments.

Paint plastics with confidence. Plastic items like side tables, planters, and even furniture can be salvaged with a little cleaning and a coat of the appropriate spray paint for the surface. Choose a brand that mentions “for outdoor use” and the type of surface(s) you plan to paint. We used Behr indoor/outdoor spray paint for multiple surfaces from our local Home Depot. We chose this brand specifically for the designer colors offered, multiple surface capability, and the advertised “corrosion resistance.” It’s been over a year and our plastic planters and mailbox are still looking fresh!

Note: Always follow instructions and pay attention to the cautions listed on the paint can.

Choosing paint colors: If the space has high traffic and use, grays and darker colors may be a better fit. If you prefer lighter colors, consider off whites, creams, and light gray colors that will hide foot traffic better than bright whites. Remember, colors often dry a little darker than you may anticipate, and very light colors can dry a bit brighter than you think so it’s okay to walk the white swatches down a few steps to achieve a more likable, gentler color when it’s applied on the large scale of the ground or walls.

Stencil your way to a fancier space. Stencils can give the feel of tile, without all of the expense. We searched “how to use outdoor stencils” on YouTube and found a lot of helpful tips for using stencils and templates on concrete patios. Two we enjoyed were “Cutting Edge Stencils” for a professional stencil approach, and “House Mix Blog” for a more diy template (use what you have laying around) approach. Both approaches produced a professional end result.

Use the right tools for the job. Cutting corners seems like easy the way to go until everything falls apart and you end up spending twice the amount of money to fix it. You don’t need to go overboard but get the right paint brush roller, choose high quality paint, buy the stencil adhesive… it will make life easier in the long run and ensure a quality end result.

If you’re overwhelmed start small.

Try working on a space by completing a task or two at a time:

  • Step 1 – Clear out the space.
  • Step 2 – Sort items into “keep,” “toss,” and “donate” categories. Clean the “keep” items and prep for spray painting, if desired.
  • Step 3 – Pressure wash.
  • Step 4 – Spray paint the cleaned/prepped furniture and accessories.
  • Step 5 – Prep the patio by taping off the edges, sweep, and start painting.
  • Step 6 – Finish painting/stenciling.
  • Step 7 – Decorate!

By working a step at a time, the space will be dazzling by the end of the week!

Some decoration inspiration:

Don’t feel like painting? No problem!

An outdoor weather proof rug can make the space feel instantly fancier.

Then add some furniture to relax in, or a pop of new pillow covers.

A bit of shade that gives the daytime resort vibes:

And a little *twinkle* to the nights with remote controlled “outdoor light bulb garland.”

Did someone say dining al fresco?

Make shift bar carts and decorative ice chests add color and fun, while shatterproof tumblers and dishes are a pool owner’s dream.

Love a good deal?

Keep an eye out for sales at your local home improvement stores staring this month. We’ve notice August (or when a potential storm is looming) tends to start the clearance of summer and patio merchandise. We’ve found whole patio sets and Adirondack rocking chairs on sale for %50 OFF. What a deal!

Show off your exterior design skills. Share your before and after patio/porch refresh pics with us!

Via email: DeAnna(at)goffmc .com

Or on Instagram and Facebook: @DeAnnaAndCompany

Home Hack

Summer Tourist Day Bag

Summer is the most popular time to head out to a Central Florida theme park, festival, fair, concert, or a number of other tourist destinations. We’re sharing what we take with us when we’re in full tourist mode to help us endure the Florida summer elements. We found these items on Amazon.

Get A Comfortable, Dedicated Tourist Bag

All of our favorite “Day Bag” products were purchased on Amazon!

Ditch lugging around your day-to-day purses and bags for a dedicated more travel-friendly option. We pay special attention to reviews and look for bags with a weather resistant material that won’t stick to skin and clothes, making it feel even hotter outside than it already is.

MIni Backpacks

They are like a pumped up purse or a not so clunky traditional backpack. Mini backpacks are all the rage right now because they are light, more comfortable to wear, allow us to be hands free, and come in a range of styles from cute to luxury branded.

Belt Bags

Wether you call them a “belt bag,” “belly bag,” or “waist bag” …yeah, they’re just fancy new ways of saying “fanny packs.” You know them, you love them. They’re the original travel-friendly and hands-free way to be!

Crossbody/Messenger Bags

These bags are great for storing lots of things without the strain of a backpack, but stays put more than a traditional shoulder purse or tote. The little pockets make for built in organizing too.

Our favorite Summer Tourist bags? For theme parks, a Loungefly mini backpack is our go-to bag. They are small enough to manage all day in the park without needing a locker, yet still spacious enough to carry A LOT of necessities, souvineers, and even items (like phones/sunglasses) for others in our group. For general travel, our top pick is a lower profile Vera Bradley cotton crossbody purse. Those bags are perfect for solo adventurers and non-theme park vacationing.

Think SMALL Attachments

Mini carabiners attach items like water bottles, umbrellas, hats, and even bags of souvenirs to your day bag, keeping them ready at a moment’s notice.

Attachable mini water bottles. Having purchased several, our favorite is a mini collapsible sports bottle with a carabiner. It’s made of squishy silicone and is so light we barely know it’s there. We typically bring it empty and fill it at various water bottle stations we find during the day. We’ve also packed it with nothing but ice before we leave so that it’s a source of melting cold water for hours. Remember, whichever bottle you choose, you’ll be lugging it around all day, so small and light is the key.

Attachable mini hand sanitizer. It’s hot and sweaty out there. Keeping this easily accessible will ensure you use it when you should. We prefer the pretty styles and scents from Bath and Body Works. The quality of the bottle and attachment is durable and we’ve never lost one yet!

What’s IN Our Day Bag?

Sunscreen – BRING. THE. SUNSCREEN. You think you won’t need it, but it’s Florida, in the summertime, and you absolutely will need it! Find a small travel bottle(s) of good smelling breathable sunscreen that is rated 50SPF at a minimum. We love Hawaiian Tropic face and body line of sunscreens.

Mini Umbrella – A MUST to provide your own personal shade and to shield yourself from the inevitable afternoon Florida rainstorm.

Hat – If you’re not an umbrella/parasol person, you’re going to need a good hat with a wide brim. We like rough and tumble crushable options that we can wear in the rain, at the pool or ocean, or just walking around the theme parks and then can tuck away into our bags indoors or at night. Keep in mind: visors are not protective hats, and sunburns on the head are no fun at all.

Zip Baggies – We usually have at least one of these in our bag and we always use it. Whether we are packing away left over food, a malfunctioning sunscreen bottle, a wet poncho, or storing masks, a plastic zip baggy really comes in handy!

Personal Fan – A small fan with a BIG breeze is a life saver. I cannot tell you how many times my tiny rechargeable or accordion fan have saved me. I don’t leave home without one! The hands free neck versions are good too, but I think they are better for people with short hair. (Ouch)

Crackers – A pack of peanut butter crackers, or a non-chocolate granola bar endure the heat and tussle of a bag well and come in handy when you’re too tired to wait in another sun-filled line for a snack.

Gingerale – If the venue allows it, we always try to bring a can of gingerale. When we’ve ridden one too many roller coasters or the heat gets to be too much – it’s always the stomach that needs calming. Gingerale always does the trick and helps us cool down too.

Pro Tip: Store chilled cans in a coozie to keep your cold cans from sweating all over the inside of your bag.

Transparent Poncho – A $0.97 emergency poncho will feel like it’s worth a million bucks when you get trapped outdoors in a Florida pop-up storm. Ponchos even come in handy for staying dry on water rides, or in the winter months when we slightly underestimated how cool it was outside. The plastic works just like a wind breaker.

Hair Clip – Just another simple accessory that has saved us time and time again.

Sunglasses – Look cool AND protect eyes from the sun? That’s a win/win!

Pro Tip: Look for “polarized” 100% UV lenses to see easier without strain. Also note, sometimes very cheap and older sunglasses have little to no UV protection. Make sure to look for 100% UV on the label or sticker.

Be Sure to Organize

Even though these day bags are small, if you don’t organize you will be constantly digging around what feels like a black hole – frustratingly not finding anything you need when you need it. Avoid dumping out the contents of your bag every time someone asks for a piece of gum by designating a place for everything you plan to bring along.

Flat Pouch Wallet – You just need the essential cards, cash, and ID’s. Save on space and weight by transferring the necessary cards, cash, and tickets into a low profile insert instead of carting the weight and bulk of your regular wallet.

Small Pouches – Makeup pouches, reusable fabric baggies, even traditional plastic zip bags are a great way to organize the inside of your tourist bag. Think one for sunglasses, one for sunblocks and makeup, one for snacks, one for keys, etc.

Mini Pill Box – We use a micro pill case to pack a first aid kit instead of bringing all of the bottles and boxes. Keep it small: a blister bandaid, a few antacid type chews, ibuprofens, allergy, or any prescriptions needed for the day.

Not feeling the pouches? Try a mini backpack organizer! We found several handmade ones on Etsy.

PRO TIP: Keep the bag light. Only transfer *the essentials* from your day-to-day purse. No one *needs* their miniature photo album in the concrete wilderness of a theme park.

Whether you’re vacationing or just spending a day at the amusement parks, packing a few of these essential comforts can really make the day so much more enjoyable. Happy Summer, everyone!

Recipes

Homemade Chocolate Ice Cream

Nothing says July like homemade ice cream. We use this method in our FAVORITE ice cream maker, the Cuisinart from our post: Kitchen Gadgets Worth Owning!

Make the base a day before so it can chill for a good length of time. Using a cold ice cream base will form your ice cream quicker and with a nicer texture too.

Supplies

  • Small CLEAN Dish Towel
  • Ice Cream Maker
  • Mixing Bowls, Wooden Spoon, Wire Whisk, Silicone spatula…
  • Freezer-Proof Storage Container with Lid.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup 2% Milk
  • 2 cups Half and Half
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons Hershey’s Dark Cocoa Powder
  • 1 large Hershey bar, snapped into pieces.

Directions

PREP WORK

8 to 24 hours before using the ice cream machine:

Get stuff cold. Place ice cream maker reservoir in freezer overnight or for a few days.

Prepare the base 8 to 24 hours before you intend to turn it into ice cream in the machine. This will give it enough time to get thoroughly cold, which will create better ice cream.

Our “base” is basically like a concentrated hot cocoa from scratch:

    1. In a cold medium sized sauce pan; add half-and-half, sugar, and pieces of chocolate. Place pan over medium-low heat, slowly heating and stirring the mixture with a whisk until the chocolate is melted and you can no longer feel any sugar grain textures as you stir the bottom of the pan. (Use a silicone spatula to make sure you get any hidden lumps along the walls and corners of the pan.) Turn off stove and remove from heat.
    2. Place the cold milk in a large mixing bowl, and set it aside to adjust to the room temperature while you finish the base.
    3. Use a silicone spatula to stir vanilla and cocoa powder into the warm base. Allow mixture to cool for two minutes.
    4. By a large spoonful at a time, slowly incorporate the chocolate base into the bowl of the cold milk until it is all combined.
    5. Place base mixture back in refrigerator for 8 to 24 hours to chill.

Pro Tip: Experiment swapping out the chocolate for other flavors. We’ve used this cooked base method to make fruit flavored ice cream too.

  • Strawberry Ice Cream: Slice strawberries (or other fruit) and place in a bowl with a bit of sugar sprinkled over them and let sit for 20 minutes.
  • Spray a frying pan with cooking spray and cook strawberries (reserving juices) over medium-low heat until softened. (Don’t burn them, they just need to be softened.)
  • Use a silicone spatula to add the contents of the frying pan, and the reserved juices, to Step 1, where you would normally add pieces of chocolate.

Now freeze the chocolate mixture in the machine. Follow your machine’s instructions. Our method is:

  1. Put the ice cream tools like the mixers, containers, bowls, and spatulas in the refrigerator (NOT the freezer) about an hour before you start making ice cream to get them nice and cold.
  2. Set up your work space. Plug in your machine and gather your tools. You will want to move fast so have everything you will need at the ready. Retrieve the frozen reservoir and mixing paddles last to ensure they are as cold as possible when you start churning. Assemble the machine, and move very quickly to start making.
  3. Turn on your machine. Slowly pour the chocolate base mixture into the churning reservoir. Watch the liquid levels, as the mixture expands as it freezes and could overflow if too full.
  4. Place the clean folded dish towel over the hole to keep the cold air in. Return any unused portion of the base mixture to fridge. You can make more later!
  5. Set timer for 20 minutes before peeking at the progress under the dish towel. Inspect quickly to keep as much cold air in as possible. Check again in 10 minutes. Note: the machine noises start to change slightly as the mixture freezes and gets harder to turn.
  6. When your ice cream is set, turn off the machine. Remove the paddle. Quickly stir in any mix-ins with a silicone spatula, and transfer mixture to a freezer safe storage container.

Ice Cream can get a little melty in the process of mix-ins and transferring. Freeze for 10 minutes before dishing it out.

Pro Tip: When it comes to mix-ins, we found most chocolate chips and various candies got way too hard when they froze in the ice cream. Magic Shell type chocolate worked great for making our own chocolate bits or using as a topping. Snacks we could turn into crumbs, like Butterfingers and Oreos worked well too.

Cooked fruit that is then chilled (strawberries, bananas, peaches, cherries, etc.) makes better taste and texture than just mixing in fresh slices at the end.

Let us know what homemade ice cream flavor combinations you come up with in the comments of our social media; @DeAnnaAndCompany. Enjoy!

Curb Appeal

Boat Life

 

This summer, we’re enjoying the outdoors beyond our home by hopping on the nearest boat! Whether you’re manning a pontoon or just a guest on the not-so-high seas of Central Florida, we have a few boat tips, products, and even two quick boat rental reviews below.

Simple Boat Etiquette

  • Technically we’re supposed to wait on the dock until the captain grants you permission to “come aboard.”
  • Remove your shoes. They scuff the boat.
  • No spray sunscreens. There’s something in them that remove or effect finishes and stain vinyl, floors, and walls. Instead, look for traditional cream versions that are environmentally safe. Usually listed as “reef safe.”
  • Leave things as you found them. This seems obvious, but discarding anything in the water is a no-no. No matter how small, it effects the environment and the wildlife.
  • Watch out for the manatees and respect the wildlife.

Safety First

  • Boat with buddies. It’s always safer to be on the water with a friend or five, and probably more fun too!
  • Phones may not work. Tell someone on land where you’ll be. We boated for two full days and never lost our connection for texting, but making phone calls, and maps apps were another story.
  • Have an emergency plan, know where the life vests are, take a boat safety course. There are lots of resources online and some rentals may require you to complete an online course before they will rent a boat to you.
  • Know your numbers. How long, wide, and tall the boat is will be important for knowing if you can clear narrow channels and over passes.
  • Take a paper map and write down emergency or any contact numbers on it. Chart out a course online and print it before you go. Remember, phones may not always work.
  • Go slow through tunnels and around other boaters.

“ACK! SOMETHING TOUCHED MY FOOT!”

It’s Florida. If there’s water there’s probably a gator in it. Pay attention to signs, proceed with caution, and only swim in designated areas.

A Place in the Shade

Do not get on a boat without bringing a hat, 100%+ uv rated polarized sunglasses, sunscreen, fresh water, and a snack. If it’s hot outside, it can be even hotter and sunnier on the boat. By the time you realize you need any of those things, it may be too late and there are rarely any places to find those essentials in the water wilderness.

Functional Boat Style

Swim shirts with UPF 50+ protection are another way to block out the Florida sun. Quality swim shirts are completely comfortable to swim in, dry fast, and look cool too.

Found on Amazon

A good boat hat should have wide sun-shielding brims, and the ability to be cinched down with a chin strap if it gets too windy out there.

Found on Amazon

Pack a boat picnic. Snacks and water are always a good idea to have on board. Yogi Bear would be so proud of your “pic-a-nic basket” style with these finds!

Found on Amazon

How Did The Boat Rentals Go?

Overall, we enjoyed both of our rental experiences. However, it does seem a LOT more glamorous in photos than it was in actuality. While we’ve gone on day charter boats a number of times in the Keys, boat tours in Clearwater, Mount Dora, and Winter Park – and had really great experiences – renting the whole boat and navigating it yourself is a completely different experience than being a boat guest on a tourist attraction. On our own, it got kind of boring out there because there’s only so many things to do when you don’t know the lake or river that well. Traveling with a seasoned boat owner or the captains of the tourist boats and charters is a much more relaxing and exciting adventure IMO. You get to relax and just enjoy the whole experience because of all of their instinctual knowledge of the area and years of boating experience.

THE PONTOON RENTAL

We rented an 18′ pontoon from Lake Adventures Boat Rentals on Lake Eustis. The boat was VERY clean and pretty. The staff was helpful and nice. Navigating the little water channel from Lake Eustis over to Lake Dora was our favorite part of the day. Finding the entrance was almost completely hidden, but we saw a few boats *disappearing* among the foliage and followed them. I felt like Harry Potter at the train station. It was a relaxing beautiful day, floating here and there, spotting different birds, turtles, plants, and other wildlife. We parked the boat at the dock in Mount Dora to use the clean public restrooms, and enjoyed walking around downtown for a bit. The rental was easy, and there was no hassle upon our return. They even helped us bring our stuff from the cars in the morning and back to the cars at the end of our rental.

THE TINY HOUSE BOAT RENTAL

We also rented a “tiny house boat” on the St. John’s river for a few days. The owner was nice and their boat was a unique concept. The boat was cleaned, but it definitely had a “lived in” feel, that I didn’t notice in the website photos. It had a simple kitchenette set up with a very useful sink and a camping type cook top, a small bed/table combo similar to a pop-up camper, a nook for sitting, and a “bathroom.” But it was not a bathroom. It was a shoe cubby with an imposter toilet of despair. Luckily, we found the boat gas station on the river. It has a general store with clean and *real* bathroom facilities. I’ve never been so happy to hear a flush. No fault of the tiny house boat, but having been on a traditional house boat before, I think the words “house boat” combined with the photos and write up did not give my brain the reality check it needed to manage my expectations for this adventure. Also, the weather was very hot. There is no air conditioning or circulation type fan. When it stormed you’d have to close all of the windows and doors to keep from flooding, which made it even hotter. At night you had to close up everything again because the insects of Jumanji ascended on the river at 7:32PM, so it was hot all night too. However, since it was mostly heat and toilet troubles, now that I know better what to expect, we might consider trying it again one day. But ONLY in the cooler months.

“I’d Rather Be A Tourist”

There’s nothing wrong with that! Try any of the boat tours in Mount Dora. There are a few of them offering several different trip lengths and vistas. The dock is located just behind the Pisces Rising restaurant.

Scenic Boat Tours in Winter Park also offers boat tours that travel the chain of lakes and go through super narrow foliage filled channels that are really cool! The dock is just off Park Avenue at the bottom of the hill. 312 E. Morse Blvd.

Do you live that boat life? Have any tips? Have you rented a boat in Central Florida? We’d love to hear your tips and experiences. Let us know in the comments of our Instagram and Facebook for our “Boat Life” posts this month.

Home Hack

Fireworks in Central Florida

Many cities are back to pre-pandemic Fourth of July celebrations this year. Here’s a list to help plan where and how to enjoy fireworks, with options for celebrating on the holiday weekend before, and on Monday, July 4th too!

BEFORE YOU GO: Be sure to verify on the city’s event pages for location, time, schedule updates, cancellations, or changes.

CELEBRATIONS ON THIS WEEKEND:

WINTER GARDEN

City of Winter Garden’s Red White and Blues on the Plaza music night.

Where: Centennial Plaza, W. Plant Street in Historic Downtown

When: 7:00 – 9PM, Fri. July 1

City of Winter Garden’s Independence Day Celebration, live music, kids crafts, family games on the lawn.

Where: Downtown Pavilion, 104 S. Lakeview Avenue

When: 8:00AM – 1PM, Sat. July 2

OVIEDO

Year after year, there’s a great City of Oviedo Independence Day Celebration and fireworks at the Oviedo Mall. There are $20 advance purchase wristbands available that includes unlimited rides and attractions.

Where: 1700 Oviedo Mall Boulevard Oviedo, FL 32765

When: 5:00 – 9PM Sat. July 2

ALTAMONTE SPRINGS

Red Hot and Boom concert event. Admission is free. Vendors, food, beverages available for purchase. This event is put on by the radio station XL106.7 and a lot of local businesses and is known for being a concert day of nationally recognized and up-and-coming music artists.

Where: Cranes Roost Park, Altamonte Springs

When: 4:00 – 11PM Sun. July 3


FIREWORKS ON THE ACTUAL DAY:

DOWNTOWN ORLANDO:

Fireworks at the Fountain. Vendors, food, live entertainment, and family fun

Where: 512 East Washington Street, Orlando, FL (Lake Eola)

When: 4:00 – 10PM Mon. July 4

APOPKA:

Vendors, food, live music, family fun at the beautiful Apopka Amphitheater.

Where: Apopka Amphitheater, 3710 Jason Dwelley Pkwy, Apopka,FL

When: 6:00 – 9PM, Mon. July 4

WINTER GARDEN:

City of Winter Garden’s Party in the Park fireworks celebration

Where: 29 W. Garden Avenue, Winter Garden, FL

When: 6 – 9:15PM, Mon. July 4 

CLERMONT:

City of Clermont Red White and Boom at Waterfront Park. Food trucks, live music, and fireworks of Lake Minneola.

Where: 330 3rd St, Clermont, FL

When: 7 – 10PM, Mon. July 4 

LEESBURG:

City of Leesburg July Fourth Celebration. Baseball, kids zone, live music, and fireworks at Venetian Gardens.

Where: 201 E Dixie Ave, Leesburg, FL (North Shore of Lake Harris)

When: 7 – 11:30PM, Mon. July 4

TAVARES:

City of Tavares Independence Day Celebration at Lake County Historic Courthouse. Street party, seaplanes, parade, kids activities until 6:30, and fireworks at 9.

Where: 317 W Main St, Tavares, FL

When: 4:45 – 6:30PM, and 9PM Mon. July 4


NON-FIREWORKS FUN

For those who do not enjoy fireworks, there are lots of day time festivities before nighttime fireworks. Most of the hours-long events above have fair-like activities, vendors, entertainment, and concerts during the day.

The city of WINTER PARK has no mention of fireworks on their website for their Annual 4th of July Celebration event for 9AM-12PM, with a decorated bike ride parade starting at 11:30AM in Martin Luther King Jr. Park and Community Playground. Free treats while supplies last, live music, and a kids fun zone. More information on Winter Park’s event page.

Where: 255 South Denning Drive, Winter Park, Florida

When: 9AM-12PM Mon. July 4

The city of WINTER GARDEN has no mention of fireworks on their website for their weekend and Monday morning celebration events:
City of Winter Garden’s Red White and Blues on the Plaza blues music night.

Where: Centennial Plaza, W. Plant Street in Historic Downtown

When: 7:00 – 9PM, Fri. July 1

City of Winter Garden’s Independence Day Celebration – live music, kids crafts, family games on the lawn.

Where: Downtown Pavilion, 104 S. Lakeview Avenue

When: 8:00AM – 1PM, Sat. July 2

City of Winter Garden’s All American Kids Parade and Breakfast-free breakfast for kids, adult breakfast available for purchase, entertainment and activities for kids. Family parade with free decoration station for bikes, scooters, wagons, and even feet for those who would like to join the parade.

Where: Winter Garden Masonic Lodge No. 165, 230 W. Bay Street

When: 8:00AM – 10:30AM, Mon. July 4


THEME PARK HOPPING

If you are in the mood to make a day of it at the theme parks, all of these Central Florida favorites mention specific “Fourth of July” fireworks on their websites. Universal Studios is even setting up a specific party zone and time for the holiday! 

EPCOT Walt Disney World,  Mon. July 4

Magic Kingdom Walt Disney World, Mon. July 4

Universal Studios Orlando Mon. July 4,  party is from 5PM to 9PM

SeaWorld Orlando Mon. July 4

Fun Spot locations in Orlando and Kissimmee, website lists fireworks display is specifically for the Fourth of July, Mon. July 4 at 9PM

Home Hack

Meal Subscription Review: Hello Fresh

There are so many meal services to choose from, but none of their websites make it very clear what to expect. In fact, most sites felt like there was no information at all besides “Here is food – sign up now!” We hope to make things a little clearer for anyone out there trying to explore and compare different meal service subscriptions.

Today, we’re reviewing DeAnna’s favorite meal service: HELLO FRESH! (And sharing the recipe for the HF meal she made last night too.)

We first reviewed EveryPlate, which we found to be one of the most affordable services. You can read our review on that here: EveryPlate.

We learned that EveryPlate is a sister company to Hello Fresh, so it is no wonder we like them both. In comparing the two, we like to think of Hello Fresh as the older, fancier, often more sophisticated sister with her home completely organized and her life together. 😂 While both services are wonderful and produce delicious meals, there’s more attention to the details in Hello Fresh meal choices and the delivery method that makes it our number one choice, despite the small difference in price.

What to Expect

Your chosen meals will arrive like clockwork in a big Hello Fresh box full of fresh goodness. If you forget to choose your meals for the week, the algorithm will choose for you. Be sure to learn your “choose-by-day” deadline so that you can avoid any unwanted meals, or if you like to be surprised, let it roll the dice! From the HF website: “Choose from 50 weekly menu + market items including vegetarian, kid-approved and low calorie meals, crafted and curated by our chefs. Add ready to eat salads, sandwiches, soups and many more options.”

We were nervous about the “serving size” before we started Hello Fresh, but trust that these are real-life servings. The portions are generous enough that we finish it all and never find ourselves hungry after a HF meal. Your delivery options are available with as few as 2 servings (for 2 people), which make it ideal for a couple or a single who likes to have leftovers. If you have a family or roommates, the meals can be ordered in as many as 4 servings (for 4 people) too.

Ingredients Arrive Pre-Sorted and Measured

The sorted packaging is THE BEST. Instead of each ingredient being dumped into the box all jumbled together, Hello Fresh pre-measures and separates each meal’s ingredients into separate bags. The bags store well in the fridge and make it so easy to grab and go. You’d think things being separated out wouldn’t matter much, but it saves a lot of time in the prep-work stage. We also love that spices are included in the exact amount needed for the recipe.

Directions Are Easy

Directions are on a large card that is easy to read and understand. Ingredients and a meal photo are shown on the front of the card with directions on the back. The directions are separated out into bite-sized steps (see what we did there? 😁) which keep us from getting overwhelmed. The meal cards make it possible to re-create any meal on your own with store-bought ingredients.

PRO TIP: Hole punch and store your favorite meal cards in a 3-ring binder to make on your own in the future.

Our Favorite Feature

One of our favorite things Hello Fresh offers are the fancier add-on meal options. You can add meals to your plan at any point. Sometimes they are themed and offered around celebrations like Super Bowl, or they might just be something fancy like wood-plank salmon. We also love the variety of different bowl-type meals they offer regularly too!

Pause or Cancel

When you have a busy week or holiday plans Hello Fresh allows you to change the delivery day, or even skip a week. HF also allows us to cancel at any time and pick up again in a few weeks or months. We’ve typically skipped weeks when we are super busy, but have even cancelled when we will be on vacation, when family is visiting for an extended period, or even just to change things up for a bit. It’s never been a problem to stop and start the service again. In fact, it’s super quick to pick right back up because all of your preferences remain in your account.

Customer Service

Hello Fresh customer service is great too – they are very quick to correct and compensate for any issues.

Now, the potential cons of this meal service.

  • Many meals require a bit of chopping and prepping. Often the prep-work takes us longer than the cooking part. We don’t mind this feature, but can see how some might not enjoy that.
  • These are not pre-prepared meals you just pop in the oven. These meals are made – by you – from scratch. Meaning, from chopping the measured-out fresh ingredients, mincing, zesting, adding, stirring, sautéing, boiling… to the finished meal, you make it. Again, we like this feature because we love to cook, but can see where it may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
  • Hello Fresh is not the cheapest meal service option, but we find the attention to details to be well worth the price. HF is cheaper and healthier than dining out, so again, we don’t find this to be a con but can see where people might. If more affordable is a must, see our review of EveryPlate meal subscription service. It’s like a lite version of the Hello Fresh experience.

Do you have a different meal service? Share your pros/cons/experience with us in the comments of our social media for this article. We’d love to hear about it!

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@DeAnnaAndCompany

*Note: This article is not a paid advertisement or endorsement. We really have a subscription and have enjoyed the meals and service!*

Curb Appeal

Summer Loving Butterfly Bushes!

Butterfly Bushes are a fountain of beautiful tiny flowers that butterflies cannot resist… and neither can we!

We picked up one of these plants at a local garden show, and they have been a visual delight. There are always multiple butterflies enthusiastically fluttering around the vibrant micro flowers.

It’s not just butterflies we’ve seen, but bumble bees, honey bees, and humming birds too.

The bush grows kind of like a fountain grass, leggy with the flowers growing in cone masses on the ends.

These bushes like the sun. They also must be tended to regularly by “deadheading” (cutting off) the flower cones as soon as they are spent, so that new flowers will grow.

Other Butterfly Attractors

There are many plants that make for a beautiful garden AND attract butterflies and other pollinators. Here are a few popular choices we see often at the nursery and our local garden centers.

LANTANA

 

PENTAS

 

BLACK-EYED SUSANS

 

SUN FLOWERS

 

CONE FLOWERS 

Our Current Favorite Places for Plants

  • Apopka Art and Foliage Festival: Brought to us by the City of Apopka and the Apopka Women’s Club.
  • Propagate Social House, Apopka: It’s like a coffee house, café, and plant place all-in-one! A very low key, quaint and relaxing atmosphere.
  • Kim’s Cabbage Patch, Clermont: Not just plants, but fruits, vegetables and other stuff too!
  • Lucas’ Nursery, Oviedo: A massive nursery with beautiful grounds, unique planters and lawn art, a butterfly encounter, a dedicated butterfly plant area, and just about every other plant, bush, and tree you could ever imagine.

Always Plant With Care

As with all plants, purchase locally at a nursery or approved vendor to ensure you are buying Central Florida safe plants. Inquire with an on-site plant specialist for care instructions, tips, and to know potential hazards if planting in high traffic areas, or in areas pets use.

If you need some quick tips for transplanting your plant purchases to the garden, check out our article, Flowers, Flowers, Everywhere.

How are you planting your summer gardens? Any favorite finds? Favorite plant spots? Share with us via email or by commenting on our social media posts:

@DeAnnaAndCompany

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